London has loads for children to do. But instead of simply visiting tried-and-true sights such as Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and Trafalgar Square, why not treat your kids to hot spots popular with children who actually live in London?
Instead of the disappointing London Aquarium, try checking out Hampton Court Palace, where Tudor actors bring Henry VIII's court to life. You should not succumb to the familiar temptations of McDonald's. Instead try eating at the ubiquitous Wagamama, an Asian chain of cheap eats that include noodle dishes loved by kids. And the most-talked-about show among Londoners? “The Wizard of Oz” opens July 23 at Royal Festival Hall. Www.ticketmaster.co.uk for tickets.
5 favorite spots
Here are five favorite destinations of local children:
The best bargain in town: London Walks. This company offers two-hour walking tours that cost only $12 for adults, with children under 15 free. Older children in particular will enjoy the company's ghost walks, Jack the Ripper walks and tours of London showcasing Harry Potter film locations. Great tip: The “Along the Thames Pub Walk” welcomes children and is good fun for parents eager for a pint. Details: www.walks.com.
Be transported back to Roman times with a visit to the London Bridge Experience, Britain's newest family attraction that just opened in February. A tour of the bridge's 2,000-year history, which takes place in the vaults and excavated tombs of London Bridge itself, is an exhilarating one for young and old alike. (A few bits might be too scary for very young children.) Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Prices: $40; $30 for children. Details: www.londonbridgeexperience.com.
Forget the National Gallery. If you want to check out an art museum with children, go to the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House. This very small and easy-to-navigate museum houses one of the finest collections of world-famous Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world. Your child is very likely to instantly recognize works by artists such as Monet, Renoir and van Gogh. Hours:10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Price: $10; free for those under 18. Details: www.courtauld.ac.uk/gallery.
Skip the Princess Diana playground in Kensington Gardens, which is always overwhelmingly crowded. Instead head to Holland Park's adventure playground, one of the best playgrounds for children in the world. Rather than just swings and slides, this huge playground boasts seesaws, colorful spinners, rocking tables and rope structures to climb and swing on.
Sure, Toys ‘R' Us in Times Square is gargantuan. But there's still nothing like the toy department at Harrods department store, where workers encourage kids to actually play with the toys on display. Also visit Harrods Chocolate Bar on the second floor for the ultimate chocoholic fantasy. There are chocolate fondues, rich chocolate shakes and every other chocolate dessert imaginable.